This is the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) – the first smartphone from Samsung for this year. Actually, they announced it in the morning just 5 days into the new year, and with an indoor tropical forest-like environment with tents a la a camping site. It was beautiful!
Back to the phone – what does the Galaxy A7 (2017) has to offer to the masses, anyway? Well, let’s be straightforward here – Samsung’s A-series of smartphones were always aimed towards the mid-range market. Because it’s priced at RM 1,899 and with the hardware that it boasts, the Galaxy A7 (2017), in particular, is placed in between the mid-range and high-end segment of smartphones.
The question is – how does the Galaxy A7 (2017) fare out? Let’s find out!
Firstly, starting off with the packaging as usual. It has a standard Samsung Galaxy A-series packaging, which is okay. Nothing too fancy here.
To help differentiate between this generation’s Galaxy A7 and the previous ones, Samsung included the year number at the top right corner.
At the back is where some of the features are highlighted alongside with a brief rundown of its specs.
But wait – we’ve also gone made an unboxing video to showcase what the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) has to offer. Its accessories inside are actually worth mentioning.
Check out the video below!
After unboxing everything, these are what you’ll get.
At first glance, I thought that I’m looking at the Galaxy S7. No, not the edge version. The one without the edge. It looks and feels similar, actually. The button placements have been maintained, too.
At the front, it has the same geometrical shape as the Galaxy S7. It’s beautifully simple with its rounded edges. At the side is where the glass front curves inwards and wraps into the metal rim. The usual home button/fingerprint sensor and two buttons can also be found at its usual positions, too.
The back panel is a large piece of non-removable glass panel. Just like any other glossy material, they will attract fingerprints and dust easily.
One very important and interesting side note here – the rear camera is now sitting completely flat against the back panel. Obviously, there’s a ridge that separates between the rear camera’s glass from the entire back panel’s glass. In some ways, I appreciate that Samsung didn’t just use one big piece of glass for the back panel.
Speaking of the back panel, at the correct angle of reflection, you can really get some stunning pictures off the back. It’s just really shiny!
Then there are the two curved sides which heavily improves the grip on the Galaxy A7 (2017) itself. Love this curvature a lot.
Now, Samsung did shake up its port placements quite a bit. While both the volume rocker and power button are in the usual left-right position respectively, the Galaxy A7 (2017) has its USB-C port ant 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom only.
“So where’s the speaker?”, as you cunning readers ask. I had a hard time finding it too, until I got the Galaxy A7 (2017) all set up and played a YouTube video to find it instead. It’s at the side – right above the power button. It’s a very unconventional position – we all know. But does it work?
It actually does! My pink finger that I use to support the phone while holding it one-handed didn’t block the speaker hole. At all. With the speaker at this position, I can game on the Galaxy A7 (2017) without obstructing the speaker grill!
Now, how about the connectivity? Previously, there was a little hack on the Galaxy S7, showing how you can actually put both SIM cards and a microSD card together – but it’ll require an intense surgery. For the brand new Galaxy A7 (2017), Samsung heard our cries and they actually improved on how many SIM cards can be placed inside.
Samsung still placed the SIM card slot at the top – nothing out of the ordinary here. However, once I carefully inspected this tray, it’s written SIM2 and microSD. “Where’s SIM1?“, I wondered. I proceeded with another investigation on the Galaxy A7 (2017) itself and I discovered another tray on the lower left side of the phone.
So that makes up a total of two trays. The left tray is for SIM1 only, whereas the second tray at the top is for SIM2 and microSD card. Smart move there, Samsung! There’s no need for an extremely long tray to accommodate all two SIM cards and a microSD card together.
Other than that, it comes with Bluetooth 4.2 for latest and greatest compatibility with your peripherals. Even supports FM radio too, if that’s what you like to tune in to.
Lastly and definitely not the least is NFC. It’s quite an obscure feature to have on a smartphone these days, but due to the uprising of cashless payments, I think NFC will make a great comeback. For the Galaxy A7 (2017), NFC is included obviously for Samsung Pay.
Samsung also upgraded the Galaxy A7 (2017)’s display from its predecessors, as it now features a massive 5.7-inch Super AMOLED display. This display is gorgeous, obviously. Color saturation is fantastic, and the black color is obviously unprecedented.
Why? Because it’s a signature feature on AMOLED displays. As each pixel is an individual LED, it displays black color by simply not turning the LED on. This is not possible with other types of display.
Since only the colors needed are displayed on the screen, it does save a whole lot of battery juice by default. And that’s why Samsung even included Always On Display – a feature that’s only logical to be included in smartphones with Super AMOLED displays.
The Always On Display on the Galaxy A7 (2017) is similar to what the Galaxy S7 current has, with the option of opting for a single or double digital clock. A very useful feature for those who always glance at their phones to see what’s new in their notifications.
There’s also an option to display a single digital clock with the month’s calendar or select from one of the few static graphics to be displayed phone is asleep too!
Here’s a brief walk-through on what to expect from Samsung’s Always On Display feature.
This is the one part that I think many of you are eager to know about. Heck, even I do. So how does the camera perform?
First off, the rear-camera is a 16MP sensor with a f/1.9 aperture with a 27mm lens, OIS, autofocus, and LED flash. These specs and numbers are quite okay, and the pictures do tell the story here. I took all of these images in full auto mode. Take a look at some of the photos I’ve taken.
For me, I don’t think that the camera is properly stabilized. The one picture of my table in particular, was blurry. When I inspected a blurry image, it was actually taken with f/1.9 at 1/50 sec at ISO-40. It’s quite a bummer. The Pro mode (actually manual mode) doesn’t offer the option to manually tune its shutter speed too. I think that Samsung could’ve at least given us the option to manually fine tune the shutter speed.
Also, for some reason, the live viewfinder is extremely slow in room-lit conditions – and through my gaming senses, I can confirm that it’s lower than 24FPS. Even the capture speed is slow.
Other than that, the colors are pretty accurate too, and the interface is super-simple to use. With its dust- and water-resistance, I’ll be having some fun/experiment on some photography magic in the near future. Don’t worry, I’ll be sharing it with you.
Launching the camera from sleep with a double-click on the home button is really quick. Also, thank you Samsung for including an option for a floating Camera button!
While the camera might seem to be very simple and not many features overall, Samsung made it expandable. There are more modes that are available for download from the Samsung App Store. Currently, there’s only Sports mode and Animated GIF mode. I’m sure Samsung will add more in the future.
Then comes to the 16MP selfie camera with a f/1.9 lens. It’s actually not bad, considering the lack of auto-focus and again with the slow capture speed and slow viewfinder.
However, Samsung managed to redeem itself by not having its camera protruding out anymore. With an addition of a phone case, the camera can avoid from being scratched entirely!
I don’t have any complaints regarding Samsung’s TouchWiz since a year or so ago. They’ve improved a lot over the years, and it shows. The new “TouchWiz” – now called Grace UX – is although clunky times due to its irregularity in menu placements compared to stock Android, I think it’s pretty okay for first-time users.
Everything is structured in a hierarchical way, and everything is nicely grouped together. If you need to access something quick, then use the search button at the top right. That little function will dig deep into the settings menu and find what you want, and directly skip into what you want to change.
Then there’s also the quick settings bar up top on the notification bar itself. Customizability is quite minimal here, as it only allows the option to rearrange the icons but not to enable or disable any of them at all. However, there’s also another search bar here too.
This time, it’s a system-wide search function that searches everything in your Galaxy A7 (2017). From apps to files, music, Google searches, settings, and even nearby devices to be connected via Bluetooth or DLNA via Samsung’s Quick connect too. Very useful feature overall.
Samsung even included split-screen view (I call it picture-by-picture mode) in the Galaxy A7 (2017) too. With its 5.7-inch display, I think it’s only logical to make full use of this feature. I’ve always been scrolling Facebook and Twitter together side by side, with Facebook Messenger’s Chat Head at the side. This is the ultimate social media setup – at least for me.
One thing I’d like to see is the ability to save a preset, so it’ll directly launch the two apps of my choice in split-screen view. Direct, and easy.
Oh – you can do picture-in-picture mode too, with one app floating above the other and being smaller at the same time. If you want even more multitask goodness, then fear not – you can open up to 5 apps and minimize them into these little floating icons. Tap on them to maximize.
One crucial feature is missing here – to quickly switch between the maximized and minimized app with a tap of a button. Again, it’s a first world issue, but I already love its multitasking capability already.
While on the subject of multitasking, what specs powers the Galaxy A7 (2017)? What makes it so powerful that it can have a total of 6 different apps – 5 floating, and one maximized – running at the same time?
Opting for the Samsung Exynos 7880 Octa chipset with 1.9GHz processor, Mali-T830MP3 graphics, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. Of course, all transistors in this smartphone is made with the revolutionary FinFET technology, and they’ve opted for 14nm process too. You can learn more about it by clicking here.
On paper, the specs are pretty decent. Let’s take a look at how it performs in the benchmarks.
On Epic Citadel, it scored 42.4FPS – which is not the best score that a smartphone can have. Either way, having 42.4FPS is not a slouch at all. However, it did thermal throttle a little as I was getting higher frame rates at first. In the end, it stabilized at 42.4FPS at around 52℃. Not bad.
On Vellamo, it tells a similar story too. The performance isn’t top notch, but it’s well beyond the mid-range smartphone standards. It’s safe to place the Galaxy A7 (2017)’s performance somewhere in between the mid-range to high-end smartphone category.
Now, it would suck if I just mentioned these numbers and not talk about the one feature that Samsung added – and that’s the Game Tools.
It appears as a little floating icon at the side when you’re playing a game, and it offers some other features to compliment your gameplay. For example, it offers the option to disable the two capacitive keys, blocks all notifications, and record in-game footage.
The in-game footage record is actually pretty decent too, as it can save Modern Combat 5 in real-time at 720p resolution without any frame rate drops.
I thought Samsung bumped up the battery to 3,600mAh to compensate for their power-hungry Exynos chipset – but then I remembered. If it’s made using the 14nm FinFET process, the battery life should be within certain standard already.
Check out this link where we describe why batteries nowadays can last for such a long time.
Hastily, I installed PC Mark for Android and ran their battery test to test it out right away. Here’s the result.
A lengthy 13 hours and 48 minutes of continuous usage on WiFi and without a SIM card! That’s not a simple feat to pull off, considering that the furthest I’ve stretched lasted for about 10 hours and 30 minutes only. To see that the Galaxy A7 (2017) can easily last for another hour more in this benchmark made me smirk.
How about its charger? I think Samsung did a great job for not skimping out on their charger. They’ve included their Adaptive Fast Charging adapter together with the Galaxy A7 (2017) itself. It can output a maximum of 9V at 1.67A – which is 15W!
On a side note here, the Galaxy A7 (2017) uses USB-C. This will obvious pose a lot of compatibility issues with your existing cables and chargers, and Samsung only included a single USB-A to USB-C cable.
This is where Samsung made me really happy with the Galaxy A7 (2017). They included a microUSB-to-USB-C adapter in the box itself. This means that all of my current microUSB cables can be used with the Galaxy A7 (2017) with this simple little adapter. I don’t have to go out and buy new USB-C cables!
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I have to admit one thing – the Galaxy A7 (2017) is the one smartphone that gets a lot of the little things perfectly right. For instance, perfect dual SIM + microSD compatibility with dust- and water-resistance. It’s a fantastic device for those who want a Galaxy S7, but feel that it’s too expensive.
At the price of RM 1,899 for the Galaxy A7 (2017), I feel that it’s one of the better mid-range smartphones out there, largely thanks to its magnificent set of features that it brings to the table. With the complete set of accessories that come along with the Galaxy A7 (2017), it’s a very good all-in-one package for those who are seeking for smartphones with the latest and greatest features.
It’s also a great entry point to Samsung’s ecosystem of apps and systems too – like the Samsung Pay, for example. The Galaxy A7 (2017) is fully-featured, and it’s ready for what Samsung has to offer in the future.
The only complaints I have is the glossy back panel and the capacitive buttons/fingerprint sensor placement. Other than that, it’s actually a very good phone!
If the 5.7-inch model is too big for you, then opt for the smaller Galaxy A5 (2017) instead. It has pretty much the exact same specs, other than the screen size is now at 5.2-inch and battery capacity is at 3,000mAh.
Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)?
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